Endless coverage is just for openers

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I DON’T know whether you’re aware of it, but I’m told there’s something happening down Stratford way on Friday night.

We are solemnly assured that the eyes of the world will be on us, that billions of people will be tuning in to see the sumptuous splendour that is the Olympics opening ceremony.

Well, they’re welcome to look in if they like, but I won’t be tuning in for a single second of the pompous parading, dodgy dance displays and whizzbang fireworks.

And it’s not because I am such a devoted Big Brother fan that I will be glued to the live eviction on Channel 5, or wondering how they’re getting on in The Million Pound Drop.

Now you may not have clocked the TV schedules for Friday night, but here’s how it goes.

The BBC, doubtless desperate to recover its reputation as the big occasion broadcaster after the ups and downs of its Jubilee coverage, starts off with a one hour ‘countdown’ show at noon and returns to London at 5pm for another 60 minutes of pointless scene-setting.

After reluctantly retreating from Olympic overkill for an hour so that we can be filled in with what’s going on in the world – though what’s the betting that the approaching opening ceremony is going to be the lead item on the news as well – the BBC bandwagon really starts rolling at 7pm.

Hang on, surely the ceremony doesn’t start until 9pm? That’s right, we’ve got another two hours of overpaid and under-informed presenters wittering on about the fantastic festival of sport in store before we actually see any action.

And if you thought there was any chance that there would just be a short speech or two, the lighting of the flame and a brisk ‘good luck, everyone’ then I’m afraid you’re bang out of luck. The opening ceremony is scheduled to be showing for the next 31/2 hours. Yes, you read that right – and remember, that’s just the start of the Olympics overkill.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sport, I’ll be watching the showcase events and plenty of the oddball stuff you never see on TV – Greco-Roman wrestling and handball are my favourites, but I’d have to say stuff like shooting and archery leaves me cold.

And while I have decided doubts about whether we should be spending quite so much cash on staging a global sports day when we’re all up against it, I can see that the whole circus has got people perked up, the Olympic Park looks fantastic and it’s going to be a memorable few weeks.

But you also have to take into account the fact that we had to suck up to a sleazy bunch of sports administrators to get the Games in the first place, we’ve sold our souls to commercial sponsors who have done themselves more harm than good by their heavy-handed brand protection, and we’ve missed a golden opportunity to scale back excess and invoke the spirit of the last London Games, the austerity Olympics of 1948.

The opening ceremony then was not much more than an hour long, and most of that time was taken up with the athletes parading in. A couple of military bands, some words of welcome, a 21-gun salute, light the flame and get on with it. Oh, that we could turn back the clock.